Today, we celebrate the independence of the United States of America. Mind you, July 4th was not the day upon which the vote was taken to sever all ties with Britain (that was July 2nd, and the vote was 12-0-1), but rather the day that the language of the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted. Baseball was a ways off yet, but something about baseball has always seemed quintessentially democratic. In the words of Don DeLillo, baseball has a
democratic clamor, a history of sweat and play on sun-dazed afternoons, an openness of form that makes the game a kind of welcome to my country.
Today's box score celebrates the intertwining of the United States and baseball.
Leading off, the 4th of July is the one day all writers are spared scrutiny of the purple prose they lavish upon the United States and its traditional pastime. The best writers are advised to use that pass wisely, and Sixty Feet, Six Inches does just that:
The United States was 70 years old when our nation's pastime was first played in Hoboken, New Jersey. In its first years of existence was a game that was mainly played in cities by tradesmen. In fact it was the war that separated our great nation that helped spread the game that unites it. The Civil War spread the game to all walks of life. From there, Baseball ventured all over the country and grew up with us. It's our game.
The most famous baseball moment to take place on Independence Day is also the greatest speech ever given by a baseball player. On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig spoke his humble words:
Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
At Dugout Central, Teddy Mitrosilis writes a tribute to Gehrig, his baseball idol. Today, players in the majors will sport patches that read 4ALS (supporting the fight against the disease that ended Gehrig's career), and Gehrig's speech will be read at each park around the country.
Baseball is one of the only major sports with no clock. It holds the slim promise of infinity, of an everlasting purple-dusk evening, of games that stretch on and on as camera operators focus on sleeping children. It is the one game that allows us all to defy time. Today, Seamheads lionizes the impossibly long game.
For as long as I see baseball games go into extra innings, I will think of Wade Boggs going 4-for-12 or Dave Koza’s walk-off single in the 33rd inning to give Pawtucket a hard earned victory.
I will think of a 33 inning classic that I never even saw but has stuck with me for years.
That is, unless somebody plays 34…
We end today, appropriately, with a reflection on one of baseball's immortal statistics: 56. Joe Dimaggio, the Yankee Clipper, recorded a base hit in 56 consecutive games in 1941, months before the beginning of the United States' invovlement in World War II. That hit streak spanned the 4th of July weekend, and the hope it inspired was lost on no one. Would it make it any less spectacular if luck played a major role? In the Wall Street Journal, Caltech professor Leonard Mlodinow argues that luck played an important role (along with Joltin' Joe's batting prowess) in the streak. However, he writes,
People are remembered—and often rewarded—not for their usual level of talent or hard work, but for their singular achievements, the ones that stand out in memory.
We hold these truths to be self-evident...